Cambodia and Vietnam have launched a joint investigation over a temporary border marker found to have gone missing during a routine patrol of the area on Tuesday in Tbong Khmum province, according to a local official.
Provincial police chief Mao Pov said on Thursday that border police noticed that the roughly 70-cm-tall concrete marker, which had been rooted in the middle of a rice paddy, was missing while patrolling Cambodia’s border with Vietnam in Memot district’s Chan Moul commune.
“After our border police found that the temporary marker was gone, we contacted the Vietnamese border police to inform them,” he said. “Now we are launching a joint investigation with Vietnam to find out whether the temporary border marker was uprooted with ill intent or what the motive was.”
He said border police had patrolled the same stretch the day before the marker went missing.
Much of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam remains contested and has yet to be officially demarcated. The placement of border markers remains a contentious issue for those Cambodians who accuse their eastern neighbor of encroachment.
In 2010, opposition leader Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia of racial incitement and destruction of public property after uprooting wooden markers along the Vietnamese border that he claimed had been placed well inside a Cambodian family’s rice paddies. Mr. Rainsy only returned to Cambodia in 2013 after winning a royal pardon for those and subsequent convictions, all related to his sustained campaign against alleged Vietnamese encroachment.
Mr. Pov on Thursday offered to personally reward anyone who provided information that led to an arrest in the case of the newly missing border marker.
Opposition CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann, however, offered an innocent explanation to the mystery.
He said he visited the same stretch of border a few months ago and noticed that the ground was very loose and frequented by wandering cattle. He suggested that the marker was simply knocked over by a cow and that a local villager might have hauled it away.
“From my point of view, it is not a difficult problem,” he said. “The authorities can install a new temporary border marker in place of the missing one because it’s only temporary.”